The manufacturer of Heliocol solar pool heating systems, Magen Eco Energy, sent some international executives to the recent Gold Coast Expo including VP of Marketing Itzik Amar and engineer Tali Roitman.
Considering Heliocol's position as a solar powerhouse, SPLASH! took the opportunity to catch up with them and Heliocol's Kelly Dancer and Dan Roderick, and ask them about the current state of the global market.
Amar says while Europe had obviously been suffering from the economic downturn, they were surprised to find that the company had actually seen an increase in European sales by 12 percent.
"The Europe situation had been really dramatic over the past two years," he says. "It was very bad in some countries like Greece, Cypress and Spain. But we dramatically increased our sales in countries like Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France. The common thing with those countries is they are the stronger economies.
As appeared in SPLASH! Magazine, December 2012/January 2013
"In total, we increased our sales in Europe. It surprised us when we checked the numbers - we were up about 12 percent."
The last time Amar spoke with SPLASH!, in 2010, his main concern was the economic situation in the United States. But over the past two years, things have improved there.
"We've increased our sales in the USA," he says. "First of all, that's because of the economic recovery, and second because we launched some new products that allowed us to get to some new markets.
"The first product is the one we launched here at SPLASH!, the SunX. Worldwide it's called the EcoSpark. It's a collector with light, polycarbonate glazing. It's a very efficient collector, especially in areas that are windy or houses that have limited roof space. Because now we need to compete for roof space with photovoltaic systems and solar thermal systems."
Another product they have focused on is a solar collector for above ground swimming pools.
"The potential for this product is huge. They are kits for the DIY market: an efficient product based on the SunX."
Kelly Dancer says the above ground kits are sold in the US along the "climate line", the area where the summer is warm enough for a pool as long as there's some heating, but in winter the above ground pools often get emptied and packed away.
"It's modular so you can add to it if you want more heat," says Dancer. "They're cost effective and price is the driver. We're still researching the best avenues for sales. We will protect our channels, but there might be other avenues through manufacturers. But I couldn't see this product sitting in a Bunnings store or something. We're going to protect our network of people because we've got a great relationship with them."
Another niche product they're launching is a solar kit for spas. It is based on a principal similar to domestic hot water, but made entirely from plastic.
We've already tested it in a few installations in New Zealand and Europe," says Dancer. "The results are really promising. We'll see it here in 2013; we'll launch it in Singapore at Piscine SPLASH! Asia."
Worldwide, Heliocol has done well over the past year, showing a total sales increase of 20 percent. Most of that increase came in South and Central America, especially Argentina, Guatemala, Ecuador, Uruguay and Chile.
"In South America there are some regulatory issues in some countries where they're restricting imports," says Amar. "They've put on a huge import tax. This has led us to think maybe we should manufacture in some places like Brazil or Argentina."
Next year, they will also focus a little more on the burgeoning market of India.
"India is still hopeful, but it's a very challenging market. It will be part of our strategy to focus on India next season," he says.
Amar says the recovery in the United States has helped the overall figures, and Australia has also been a positive market. Australia had an increase of about eight percent, maintaining a share of just over 10 percent of the solar pool heating market in Australia and New Zealand.
Amar says it's a good performance with more potential.
"Our Australian operation is one of the strongest and most professional. It really impresses us with the installation quality, especially in the commercial sector.
"You can find more and more small commercial installations here, and worldwide, this is one of the most efficient and professional markets."
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